HEC chairman search committee putting an age bar on candidates, alleges FAPUASA


–Education ministry joint secretary says imposing age bar for HEC chairman out of the question


ISLAMABAD: Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) doubted the criterion of selecting the Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman and alleged that the search committee is busy with petty glitches like putting an age bar on the candidates, which may deprive some candidates with exceptional credentials and abilities from running the commission smoothly.

While reacting over the news of the scrutiny/shortlisting of many incompetent candidates being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against corruption charges, FAPUASA Islamabad Chapter President Dr Shehzad Ashraf Chaudhry requested the search committee members and the prime minister to make the process open and transparent by sharing the proforma filled by each candidate with all those concerned, especially the faculty members across the country.

He said that the scrutiny of candidates under investigation by NAB and the consideration of age restriction created disputes and raised many questions over the transparency. The last selection process for the HEC top post had already caused irreparable loss to whole higher education sector which is now being probed by NAB.

He asked for an end to non-transparent and closed-door appointments based on nepotism in the higher education sector and the appointment of HEC chairman through an open, competitive and merit-based mechanism.

He said that corrupt means employed in the appointments of vice-chancellors and leadership at HEC had already adversely affected the higher education sector. Such appointments are also in violation of the verdicts of the Supreme Court (SC), he added.

With over Rs95 billion budget allocation, the position of HEC chief requires a person of integrity with a strong social and moral stature. The candidates facing corruption charges and who are under investigation by NAB may not be an option for such a prestigious position.

The letter reads that the consideration of appointment of any controversial person may further deteriorate the higher education sector.

The transparency in the appointments of several vice-chancellors/presidents is already under question including the out-going HEC chairman, whose appointment is under investigation by NAB.

Unfortunately, being the former HEC chairman, he remained a key player in the appointments of the heads of institutes. The one who publicly admits the backing of a sitting minister cannot make fair and transparent decisions based on merit for high-level appointments in the commission.

Similarly, NAB has also initiated an inquiry against several vice-chancellors. The search committee for the appointment of HEC chairman has initiated the process and completed the scrutiny and has conducted interviews. Unfortunately, the scrutiny process was not open rather no scrutiny was performed and all the candidates were called for interview. Regretfully, some candidates under investigation by NAB also got shortlisted.

The proforma filled by each candidate should be placed on the HEC website and the key parameters used for scrutiny/short listening along with the marking criteria should be made public using the HEC website. Furthermore, the marking of each candidate for appointment should also be publicised.

The open and merit-based transparent appointment of HEC chairman is vivacious for uplifting the higher education sector in Pakistan and to avoid controversies and litigation otherwise, the present scenario may persist neutralising efforts to prevent further devastation of the higher education sector. To avoid the disaster, the whole process should be open including the proforma filled be the candidates to avoid misleading and passing of incorrect information.

The letter reiterated the request to direct the search committee avoid mistakes committed the during last selection process for HEC chief, which has caused irreparable loss to the higher education sector. The current selection must be carried out as per the prescribed criteria laid down in the HEC Act. The focus should be on the candidate’s integrity, international eminence, proven ability and significant contribution to the higher education sector.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training’ Joint Secretary (Education) Muhammad Rafique Tahir refuted the reports of imposing age bar for the appointment of HEC chairman.

He said that all the candidates who applied for the post were called for the interview irrespective of their age because age bar neither mentioned in the HEC Act nor in the advertisement.

He said that if the government wanted to put an age bar, it could have been done in the advertisement but since it was not mentioned there, it is out of the question now and the search committee is free to make a merit-based appointment of HEC chairman.